The Place Beyond the Pines
dir Derek Cianfrance
scr Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder
prd Lynette Howell, Sidney Kimmel, Alex Orlovsky, Jamie Patricof
with Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, Rose Byrne, Eva Mendes, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen, Ben Mendelsohn, Ray Liotta, Bruce Greenwood, Mahershala Ali, Harris Yulin, Robert Clohessy
release US 29.Mar.13, UK 12.Apr.13
12/US 2h20
The Place Beyond the Pines
Like fathers like sons: Cohen and DeHaan

cooper gosling mendes
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Place Beyond the Pines A bold approach to storytelling makes this film unusually powerful, even though the three-chapter structure diffuses the emotional punch. But the cast is strikingly good, as the wrenching script allows the actors to find raw emotional resonance in every scene.

In Schenectady, New York, carnival stunt-rider Luke (Gosling) wants to reconnect with Romina (Mendes), a fling from his last visit. When he discovers that he has a son by her, he stays and gets a job with mechanic Robin (Mendelsohn), who also teams with him to rob banks. When a heist goes wrong, Luke has a split-second showdown with uniform-cop Avery (Cooper), who has a wife (Byrne) and young son of his own. Years later, their now-teen sons Jason and AJ (DeHaan and Cohen) are confronted by a past they knew nothing about.

The film shifts perspective twice, from Luke to Avery and then to Jason and AJ, as the story explores generational ramifications of morality and ethics. None of this is simplified into "bad decision" moralising; all four of these men are doing the best they can, even when they make potentially tragic mistakes. And at the centre, Cooper gets the most complex character as a man who isn't sure what right and wrong is anymore, but he knows how he feels about what he's done.

These excellent actors draw us in with sometimes unbearable urgency. Yes, the film is sometimes too serious for its own good, getting heavier and darker over its long running time without much relief along the way. It also overplays the sins-of-the-fathers theme as it forces Jason and AJ to play out a story they actually have nothing to do with. So credit goes to DeHaan and Cohen for bringing their scenes to vivid life as these teens struggle with enormous issues.

Director-cowriter Cianfrance has a visceral visual sensibility that keeps the mood intimate, tightly following the characters Dardennes-style while finding beauty even in the most squalid settings. The title is a translation of the Mohawk word Schenectady, but also works metaphorically as key sequences take place in the woods on the edge of town. And while the film is too long to sustain the heightened emotions, its atmosphere is beautifully dark and unsettling.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, drugs 25.Feb.13

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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall